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Often everyday things become so natural that we simply do not think about their origin. We can use complex devices and equipment, apply algorithms that make our lives easier, more comfortable or even safe and have no idea how they were created. Moreover, there are always people behind these inventions. Many of them are Ukrainians who once believed in a crazy idea and made it a reality. Warning: some facts can shock you. Yes, these are Ukrainian inventions that changed the world.

Hard disk drives (HDD)

The creation of HHDs was a true revolution in recording information. It was made possible by two scientists — David Thompson and Lubomyr Romankiw. The last was born in 1931 in Zhovkva, Ukraine, and now he works and lives in the United States. Romankiw became the author of 65 patents throughout his life, made a career at IBM, and received international recognition. In 2012, Lubomyr Romankiw, along with nine other inventors (including Steve Jobs), entered the US National Hall of Fame.

Lubomyr Romankiw at IBM
Photo: Jimmy Jeong / jimmyshoots.com

Antonov-225 — world’s largest aircraft

The Antonov An-225 ‘Mriya’ (‘Dream’) is the world’s largest commercial plane and the heaviest aircraft ever! It’s Ukrainian! In 1989, it set 106 world records in just one flight! Then ‘Mriya’ had a maximum takeoff weight of more than 500,000 kg (1.1 million pounds). ‘Mriya’ was constructed between 1985-1988 by Oleh Antonov Aircraft Design Bureau in Kyiv, Ukraine. Designed for the needs of the space program, it carried the space shuttle ‘Buran’ on the fuselage. Since 2002, Antonov-225 has been used for commercial transport.

Video: WELT Documentary

Antithrombotic prosthetic heart valves

In 1965, the Kyiv surgeon Mykola Amosov invented antithrombotic prostheses and performed the first heart mitral valve surgery. Amosov also founded the Cardiac Surgery Center that became the world’s top centre of global innovation in medicine. Almost one hundred thousand heart operations were performed at the centre, including the world’s first heart surgery in a pressure.

Sikorsky R-4 — the world’s first production helicopter

R-4 is also the first helicopter included in the US Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Its designer is Igor Sikorsky, born in Kyiv in 1889. Sikorsky studied at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (1907-1911). By the way, it holds his name now. A couple of years later, he founded the US design and construction firm ‘Westland-Sikorsky’, which developed 15 aircraft models. In 1939, he returned to his youth dream to design helicopters. Sikorsky is widely considered to be the father of the world helicopter industry.

Igor Sikorsky testing one of his first helicopter models
Photo: Kyiv Polytechnic Institute

EnableTalk gloves

These innovative gloves can establish verbal contact between people who have disabilities and others who do not understand sign language. EnableTalk gloves were created by the QuadSquad team in 2012 by the Ukrainian students Anton Pasternykov, Maksym Osyka, Valery Stepanov and Anton Yasakov. Each glove has 15 touch sensors that recognize sign language and then convert it to text on mobile devices via Bluetooth. The gloves work, for their part, on solar batteries. The Ukrainian invention was featured by Microsoft. 

Immune system — human’s strongest shield

Élie Metchnikoff is the author of fundamental works in immunology, bacteriology, epidemiology, and studying the human ageing process. Metchnikoff was born in 1845 in Ivanivka village, Kharkiv region, and later studied at the Kharkiv University. He also worked at the Odesa University and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Élie Metchnikoff was the first to develop a coherent theory of protective systems of the human body. For the development of the human immune system concept, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1908.

Professor Metchnikoff in his research lab
Photo: Gallica Digital Library

Liquid fuel missile carrier MBR R-7

The MBR R-7 transported into space orbit the first artificial Earth satellite and first human-crewed spacecraft. It was designed by a team of scientists led by Sergey Korolev, born in 1907 in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. In 1926, Korolev studied at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. He is claimed to be the father of the Soviet space program. Besides, liquid fuel engines were developed by Valentyn Hlushko’s design bureau. Valentyn, who designed the Soviet space shuttle ‘Energia-Buran’, was born in 1908 in Odesa, Ukraine.

Genetic code

The world’s scientists struggled to decipher the protein codes that form it after Francis Clark James Watson discovered a double helix of the DNA structure. The findings of a renowned American mathematician of Ukrainian descent, George Gamow (born in 1904 in Odesa), played a decisive role in this research. He proposed a mathematical model and introduced a genetic code that shapes combinations of amino acids in the DNA molecule.

Framework hive

Before the Ukrainian inventor Petro Prokopovych invented the framework hive, the fixed-comb hives for beekeeping required harvesters to kill the whole bee colony to collect honey. Then, in 1814, Petro Prokopovych (born in 1775 near Chernihiv, Ukraine) proposed the world’s first design of a movable frame beehive. It not only provided easy access to the honeycombs but also allowed honey collection without harming bees. Prokopovych’s beehive quickly spread around the world. Further modifications in Europe and the USA contributed to the safe wintering of bee families and other essential improvements. 

Ukrainian beekeepers working with modern frame hives

Piezo motor

The Piezo motor, where the functional element is piezoelectric ceramics, can convert electrical energy into a mechanical one with very high efficiency (up to over 90%). The motor was created in 1964 by the Ukrainian engineer Vyacheslav Lavrynenko who comes from Kyiv. It is indispensable in astronomy, space exploration, and even robotics. Just imagine that drives for antennas, electric razors, tower and street clocks, electric drill machines, and even ceiling fans were not developed without piezo motors. Also, wave piezoelectric motors are used in lenses for SLR cameras Canon, Minolta, Sony, Nikon, and others.

Electric welding of soft tissue

The method used during surgery connects soft tissue with the help of a high-frequency electric current. It was designed in 1992-1993 by the Paton Electric Welding Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine under the leadership of Borys Paton. The method is widely applied in gynaecology, urology, ophthalmology, oncology etc. Apart from medicine, Paton’s welding techniques are used in space and underwater.

Inspired by Ukrainian inventions and inventors? That’s only a part of the story. If you have never heard that Ukrainians also were behind WhatsApp, the first passenger aircraft, PayPal, gas lamp, nuclear submarines, the first electric tram… There is much to discover! Learn about 50 inventions by Ukrainians, or see the video below to know more.

Video: Ukrainian Institute

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